Friday, November 20, 2009

F-Bomb Friday

I thought about blogging of the whole Harlequin self pub arm thing...but I don't really care to. I feel like it's all been said on several other blogs, and I simply don't have anything enlightening to add. Do I care? I think so....Am I pissed off? Uhmm No, but that's not really fair, again, Harlequin isn't a publisher that would be interested in anything I write. I don't think they began their venture with the smartest crayons in the box, but hey..what do I know? The future of publishing....well.....I'm staying positive and hopeful that all of our intelligent readers, writers and teens with a mission will save us. Especially with the holiday book drive going on every blog. :)

So, instead I'm blogging about curse words. Swearing. Cussin' like a sailor. The F-bomb, The S word, The A word, and all those other four letter words. I ran across a blog by Jackson Pearce, YA author, who made a video to approach the subject of the ONE F word in her manuscript. I personally, can't wait to read it, because there is a big fuss over it. I imagine teens are the same way. So, quit making a fuss!!

I read books like a normal person breathes air when I was younger. (These days I have no time to read the way I used to) I ran across adult themes that dealt with sex, abuse, alcohol, drugs, and cussing. Quite honestly, the cussing was the least of my mother's worries. However, lucky child that I am, she allowed me to read whatever I placed my hands on. We discussed the books I read. She used it as a way to keep her values instilled in me, despite what I may be reading. What a valuable opportunity!!

This brings me to the controversy of using swear words in YA books. I feel, like in all things, too much is bad, none is questionable. Has anyone heard a group of teenagers, unaware of adult presence, speak to each other?? Whoa. I've heard more interesting insults using swear words than I came up with when I was 15. Not only that but I hear words I didn't even know when I was 15!! In fact, it wasn't too long ago that I heard a mother and daughter discussing something, uhh, well, only a mother and daughter would discuss. At any rate, some very...non-politically correct adjectives were used by both. One of the words, the P-word was used and almost made me blush!! I still don't cuss in front of my mother. Normally.

Oops-went on a tangent. Anyway, back full circle. My point is this; as writers, I feel it is our job to simply tell a good story, show a growth (preferably positive), and connect with our readers. Make characters that our readers can love, hate and empathize with. I think when we write for YA, teens, tweens, etc.. we should certainly make sure our subject matter is appropriate for what that age group goes through. It isn't our job to mother all of the readers. Do you know what I mean? Don't make your manuscript rife with swearing just for the sake of swearing. That is irresponsible and shows more ignorance than intelligence. Don't make it blank of any and all controversial issues, even swearing, for the sake of "moral responsibility" because my morals might be different than yours. Or I might love the opportunity to discuss a different moral value with my Princesses.

There are many examples of great literature, literature we urge young readers to read from the past that also contain swear words. It's part of the language we speak. Here's where I may lose followers-and that's okay-but I allow my nine year old to read anything she wants. Anything. Okay-I don't have porn magazines or erotic romance, so that's why she reads anything. I don't let her watch anything she wants, however. Reading makes you think over those scenes that may be questionable. Reading often prompts our children to ask us about what they read. Watching a TV show often doesn't give a child time to really mull over what she's seen. Especially if they are on a marathon of Hannah Montana-don't even speak to them. Right now, my nine year old, Princess Rhiannon is reading a book that contains quite a few 'bad words' and she approached me about it last night while I was discussing the subject with the Court Jester.

"I think that some bad words are okay, because when I read this book, it lets me know that the character is really angry, or has a lot of emotion, like." (yes, she said like, it's the California in us.)

To which my husband replied, "Do you know those words are inappropriate for a young lady to use?"
"Yeah, I don't ever cuss at school, or in front of Nana."
And then Princess Kayla says, "Yeah, only in your diary, right Rhiannon?"
...Maybe I should start reading the diary.... :) Kidding

I would love your opinions. However-this may be a touchy subject for some, so I ask that we all refrain from any personal attacks and keep it respectful. So far, I've had no problems on my blog with crappy comments, so I'm proud of ya'll! (that was the TN in me)


  1. Oh, you should see the debate raging on this very subject at Lisa and Laura's blog!

    I am on the side of using whatever words you want. One you start banning books with the F-word, what's next? No books about gays and lesbians? To me it is crazy to go down the road of censoring what teens read!

  2. I was just reading an article about Cory Doctorow and all the hoopla over his sex scenes in "Little Brother". I was interested especially when he brought up that no one objected over his MC and secondary characters being tortured by the government, but these very tame sex scenes were what caused the upset.

    I guess my point is there will always be people that will object to something in a book. I think even more people feel they have a right to object if a book is YA than adult. Expect that if you write anything that isn't super sweet that there will be objections. You just have to decide as a writer what you want to write and if your story calls for something objectionable are you ready for the back lash.

  3. I find it interesting that two f-bombs can make a movie rated R, much lesser swear words are bleeped out of prime-time TV, and CDs and video games require some kind of rating to let parents know what to expect, and yet books have free reign. I'm not for censorship, but I do think there is such a thing as age-appropriate. Marketing a book as MG or YA implies that it's safe for that age.

    I used to think just the fact that a book was marketed for MG or teens meant that it wouldn't have those things in it that would make a movie R rated, but obviously that has changed.

    I'm flatly against strong language in books aimed at teens. But since the publishers don't seem to care and self-regulate, I take that responsibility on as a parent. I can't control everything my kids hear and see, but I can control what I spend my own money on and what I endorse to my kids. It's not a matter of sheltering them. It's a matter of saying, "I think this is wrong,"

    It's a huge mistake, too, to think that not using swearing in a book makes that book super sweet.

    But hey - I give authors the right to write how they want. They should give me the respect to choose whether or not to endorse it. Which this author clearly doesn't.

  4. I love these comments, my highly intelligent blog followers!!

    Corey: I saw the debate shortly after posting. LOL Argh! I agree with you, we shouldn't censor ourselves in our writing.

    Angelia: You bring a good point to the table. Just expect controversy if you use language and be prepared.

    Heidi: I wish there were more mothers like you out there! I absolutely agree it is our responsibility as parents to guide our children's choices of tv, movies, video games and books. So many parents do not know what kind of content is in the things their children watch/play/read. I also agree it is our responsibility to know what is appropriate. I would have to say the worse curse word I ever saw in a MG novel was the B word. I was actually pretty surprised and didn't feel it was necessary to the story. I think I speak more for YA than anything. Again-it shouldn't be there just to be there...but it should be a seamless part of the story. Another thing I always bring up with my children is that it shows lack of intelligent vocab to continually use cursing to express yourself. I feel it's the same in books. You will know an author's intelligence or lack thereof by their language.

  5. LOL! "Yeah, only in your diary . . ." That made me chuckle!

    When my 10-yr-old daughter went with her grandparents on a month-long trip to Ireland over the summer, I used that time to deep clean her room. I came across a random page wadded up in the corner of her room. I won't tell you what she had drawn or written, but suffice it to say my face blushed and I seriously thought I was going to faint. To this day, I have not been able to confront her about it. Tweens and teens are a lot more aware of things, which make us parents uncomfortable, than we give them credit for.

    I don't believe parents should necessarily censor every book before giving their kids permission to read it, but some sort of rating system within the YA genre would be helpful.

  6. Inappropriate language is out can't keep your kids from hearing can be in a McDonald's or at the mall and the words are there. It's our job as parents to teach our kids why using those words is not appropriate. Same with sex in's a part of life and it's our job to teach our kids why you shouldn't have sex before you're married or before you're ready or whatever you believe to be correct.

    The stuff is out can't stop it...censorship is is completely your decision what you let your kids see/read and what you don't but even if you choose not to let them read or watch books or movies with swearing or still have to teach them the lessons they need to become responsible adults.

    In my opinion, in literature and movies, there are just certain situations where a "Gosh darn it!" would sound completely unauthentic. But a movie or book with excessive use of swear words is just distracting.

  7. I just read a YA book the other day that had won awards...and it had the word sh*t in it...was written by a man, though. I wonder if that makes a difference?

    I used to submit to Harlequin. Couldn't get it right. But I saw RWA is no longer providing them with free admission to its conference every year...because they're considered subsidy now. Odd...since most of what they do is still traditional, right?

  8. Amazing what gender will do for a person...although I think the biggest thing is the F word. None of the others...though in my opinion they're all swearing.

    From what I understand RWA found it upsetting that Harlequin put it's name on a self publishing venture that they began, which charges authors $600 to publish their manuscript. This is normally frowned upon by traditional publishing in it is not a stepping stone TO publication to be self is generally one or the other, not both. Janet Reid has a couple of posts on the subjects and also links to the more detailed areas of the controversy. :) Click on her link at the top right of my page :)


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